Denver Broncos ‘definitely should have gone for it’ on critical fourth down, Nathaniel Hackett says – ESPN

  • Jeff Legwold, ESPN Senior WriterSep 13, 2022, 06:42 PM ETClose
      Jeff Legwold is a senior writer who covers the Denver Broncos and the NFL at ESPN. Jeff has covered the Broncos for more than 20 years, joining ESPN in 2013. He also assists with NFL draft coverage, including his annual top 100 prospects. Jeff has been a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Board of Selectors since 1999. He has attended every scouting combine since 1987.

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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — On second thought, Denver Broncos coach Nathaniel Hackett said Tuesday he “definitely” should have let quarterback Russell Wilson run a fourth-and-5 play in the closing seconds of Monday night’s loss in Seattle instead of sending kicker Brandon McManus out for a 64-yard field goal attempt.

“Looking back at it, definitely should have gone for it,” Hackett said. “One of those things, you look back at it and say ‘of course we should go for it, we missed the field goal.’ But in that situation we had a plan, we knew 46 was the mark.”

McManus’ field goal attempt sailed wide left, and Hackett’s decision overwhelmed almost everything else about his regular-season debut as a head coach.

Just two kickers in the NFL, since 1960, have even made field goal attempts of at least 64 yards, and the longest field goal in the history of Lumen Field is 56 yards.

McManus, who has one of the strongest legs of any kicker in the league, is still 1-of-5, including Monday night’s miss, on attempts of at least 60 yards in his career. Also, last season, according to ESPN Stats & Information research, teams converted 48 percent of their fourth-and-5 plays.

Hackett said he understood how few kickers have made an attempt of at least 64 yards — only Matt Prater at 64 yards in 2013 and Justin Tucker with the record 66-yarder in 2021 — but that after talking to the special teams coaches as well as McManus in pregame, they had decided if the team got to the Seahawks 46-yard line in the end-of-half or end-of-game situation, McManus would attempt the kick.

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Wilson had been apprised of the decision that a field goal attempt would happen on fourth down if the Broncos got to the Seahawks 46 on third down before the Broncos faced the decision on their final drive. On a third-and-14, Wilson completed a 9-yard pass to running back Javonte Williams that moved the ball to the Seattle 46.

Hackett said Tuesday if Williams had gained even 1 fewer yard “we would have gone for it.”

“We said 46 yards, the 46-yard line was where we wanted to be,” Hackett said. ” … Didn’t work, it sucks, but hey, that’s part of it.

“That’s part of being in this seat, being in this profession. This stuff is going to happen at all times, it’s been happening my whole career, even when my dad was coaching, you’re prepared for that, you understand that. You’ve got to keep grinding.”

Hackett also said “we shouldn’t have been in that situation,” given the Broncos lost two fumbles in the game on plays that started from the Seahawks 1 on back-to-back possessions in the third quarter and had another drive derailed with a false start penalty at the Seahawks 3. Wilson finished the game with 340 yards passing as the Broncos outgained the Seahawks overall 433-253.

The Broncos defense held the Seahawks offense scoreless on just 34 total yards in the second half as well.

“In the end, that lies on me, that was our plan, that was the yard line we had to get to, we all knew it, that’s what we said in the huddle before we did it,” Hackett said. “Should have never gotten to that. … Obviously the last decision is the one where you’re going to say should have done this, should have done that, but I think what frustrates me more is the red zone. We had some many opportunities, we were inches away.”

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